For those of you that receive my blog posts automatically, this one may come as a surprise, as you probably assumed that having spent so many months with only under-5’s and sheep for company, I had lost the faculty for writing. But no. I have been on a blog fast.

A blog fast is the direct opposite of a Blogfest. A Blogfest involves hundreds, nay thousands of bloggers, all writing furiously, whereas a blog fast involves just me, not writing anything at all.

It was not intentional. I just had too many things going in my life that I simply could not write about. Things that were either too personal, or too boring, or too grim, or too involved with famous people (no names mentioned but he is the best children’s illustrator ever), or too involved with close family members, or too incriminating of other family members… my family members are now all sitting up straight, spilling hot tea in their laps, going “Who?!” “Me?!”… yes you, I might be talking about you, watch out, and send me a Cadbury’s Flake and some nice pants just to cover your backs.

Speaking of pants…

Léonie has decided she has had enough of nappies and wants to wear pants. The ‘had enough of nappies’ bit is fine, as long as she stays butt naked, as then she remembers to go and sit on the potty for her pee. However, with pants on, the sensation must be very nappy-like, especially when she wears six pairs of pants at the same time, which is her current desire, so she just ends up peeing through six pairs of pants. Today it was warm and sunny so I persuaded her to play outside with nothing on her bottom and she delighted in sitting on the potty in the sunshine. I only tell you this as I just discovered the UK is swamped in snow and ice and I want to make you jealous. Let’s face it, the climate difference is probably the only thing you might feel envious about where my life is concerned, so I’m going to make the most of it.

More on the theme of undergarments… (me? trying desperately to find a through line for this blog post? never). We watched Mary Poppins yesterday and this morning Tommy was singing “Let’s go fly a kite” at the top of his voice. Here is his version of the song:

Let’s go fly a kite
Up up, in the sky!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it boring,
Up through the underwear
Up where the air is air,
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!

Cowgirl and her faithful potty.

Cowgirl and her faithful potty.


Six pairs of pants. Layering is in.

All that just to say, I’ve finished my blog fast and am now crossing my fingers to make it to a Blogfest.

Career options for a 5 year old.

Last week, while we were at my parents home in the UK, Tommy accidentally saw the beginning of a news report about a soldier whose leg had been blown apart. I managed to switch the telly off before he saw any more of it but he had seen enough to ask questions.

“Mummy, I don’t want to be a soldier because I don’t want my leg to be all in blood.”

“Well, I’m very relieved. I don’t think I would want you to be a soldier either.”

“I will be a doctor and make the soldiers better. And all the other people. And all the other legs in blood.”

“That’s a good idea Tommy.” (I secretly rubbed my hands in glee – my son, a doctor!)

“But Mummy, if I am a doctor, I will have to look at lots of legs all in blood. And more blood. I don’t like it.”

“Well, you don’t have to be a doctor” (my hopes violently dashed to smithereens).

He looked thoughtful. “Mummy, I will be a facteur. I mean a postman.”


“No Mummy, I forgot, I want to be a gold statue maker. I will make gold statues and buy money with them.”

“Do you mean people will pay you money for your gold statues?”

“Yes Mummy.”

“And what will you do with the money?”

“I will buy things for me. Like shelves. And lights. Some food.”

My son’s mind may have been infiltrated by my home improvement plans.

“And statues.”

“So… when you grow up, you’ll make gold statues to get money to buy, amongst other things, statues?”

“Yes Mummy.”

 I’m not sure whether Tommy will be a famous sculptor with a huge art collection or a weird philosophy teacher who specialises in circular logic, but I am glad he doesn’t want to do a job that involves his leg being all in blood.

Alas poor toothbrush, I knew her well.

Yesterday was a day when everything seemed destined for failure/breakage/spillage/tantrum/desperation/loss of voice. The (squashed) cherry on the cake was when I was brushing my teeth and my toothbrush snapped.

Did she fall or was she pushed?

I cannot tell you how difficult it is to brush your teeth with just a knobbly bit of brush end and no “stalk”. It is impossible to do a half decent job and you feel utterly ridiculous. Tommy watched me and said “Mummy, why are you brushing your teeth with just your fingers?” because that’s what it looked like I was doing. I showed him the brush bit and he rolled his eyes. “That’s not a good idea, Mummy”. I had a flash-forward of him being 17 and watching me clean the kitchen floor with two small sponges, squatted down like a frog (my favourite technique) and him saying exactly the same thing. Maybe by then I will have become sophisticated and elegant and will no longer have breakable toothbrushes and use sponges to mop floors. Somehow I doubt it.

The Pirate Returns

At last. He escaped. Captain Tommy Sparrow, or Pirate Peg-Leg as he is now known, managed to flee the clutches of Le Hospital and swim back to his own ship. He got away the day before yesterday and is still hopping around the house ship, bravely battling on, never giving up, despite foul poison being poured down his throat twice a day by the dreaded Captain Mummy.

We have warned Pirate Peg-Leg that we are planning on selling our house ship but nothing phases him now. He is looking forward to making new pirate friends on strange seas. Plus there’s a castle in the town we’d like to move to. With treasure hidden in one of the walls. I know this because when we visited it a few weeks ago, when Pirate Peg-Leg still had two fully working legs, I found him scraping at a 400 year old wall with a stick. I had to hide a fifty pence piece of eight in the grounds of the castle so that he could find some treasure before we left the castle, to avoid him bringing a turret down.

He is still limping and hopping and regularly falling over, yet doggedly continues his pirate cutlass training. His sister is simultaneously thrilled to have him home and also a wee bit jealous of all the attention he is getting. She has taken to opera screeching in order to remind us that she is still here. She is even letting me put pretty dresses on her rather than refusing to wear anything but her “My Pop is Da Bomb” t-shirt (a hand-me-down from 23 cousins) as she knows we will coo and aaahh every time she walks into the room. I took the opportunity to take a photo but she continued her opera squealing.

(NB: the dress is from Heavens-to-Betsy in case you were wondering.)

Transient Synovitis or Septic Hip? Yikes.

I spent the night and this morning at hospital with Tommy and finally understood what he has/might have/might not have. I also found the English terms.
… which is a viral illness involving inflammation and pain around the hip and which clears up on its own with time and rest …
… which is serious and could cause permanent damage to the cartilege. It’s an infection within the hip joint – bacteria accumulates as pus, becomes very painful and requires surgery and strong antibiotics.
The thing with Tommy is that his symptoms were somewhere in-between the two. His blood tests showed he had an infection somewhere that was getting worse, he was in awful pain when anyone touched his hip or leg, yet he didn’t have much of a fever (it came and went but was never too high), he had a good appetite and was quite perky and ‘himself’. The MRI scan showed there was an accumulation of fluid on the hip so after consulting various other childrens’ wards in Lyon and Avignon, they decided to operate, extract the fluid, clean out the hip joint and put him on antibiotics just to ensure that if it is a case of septic hip there will be no permanent damage to his hip joint. He has to stay in hospital at least until Tuesday as the antibiotics are on a drip. Also they want to keep an eye on him to see how his hip pain evolves.
So there you go. It’s my turn at home with Léonie tonight, tomorrow I’ll put her down for her nap, Lorenzo will arrive home from the hospital, we’ll have a coffee and exchange news and then I’ll drive off to the hospital for the night to do a Tommy shift while Lorenzo takes over the Léonie shift.
It’s an odd sort of summer holiday.
He’s not ‘poorly’ in this photo, just having a peaceful nap. It’s the only time he’s not chatting away/playing on my iphone/watching Octonauts and saying all their lines before they do/buzzing the nurses to come and see him.
Not a very jolly post but I’m whamming it up here anyway in case one day another parent comes searching for ‘transient synovitis of the hip’ or ‘septic hip’. Should make my Google search terms more diverse.


That’s it! I can’t take it anymore! I’m getting my hair all chopped off again! I just can’t get through the growing-it-out stage! Look! I’m even using exclamation marks everywhere!!!! (my personal rule of thumb when writing: NEVER use more than one exclamation mark per 20 sentences.) AAARRRGGGHHH!!!!!!!!!

I just came across this photo.

Yes, it’s blurry, which helps me look good, but even if it was in focus I still look a lot better than I do with this hair-helmet I’ve been wearing for over five months now. I can’t take it anymore. I’m sure this was what tipped me over the edge recently when I had a spell of feeling thoroughly depressed. So tomorrow morning I’m phoning Vincent  at “Le Salon” and booking an appointment with him and his shears. Don’t try to stop me.

(NB: I was about to write “I just can’t hack it” but realised this would have been a cringey pun. So I have spared you of such pain.)

Back in the saddle again.

Quite sheepishly, here I am again. Having announced in a typically actressy dramatic fashion that THAT WAS IT, it was all over, finished, done with, through, I would no longer be writing my blog, may you all weep and mourn me for weeks and months to come… here I am, a mere ten days later.

I can’t seem to stick at anything, not even being depressed. I tried my hardest, I lay on the sofa crying, I hated myself with a vengeance, I concentrated my hardest on thinking gloomy thoughts, but then our first load of summer visitors arrived and having a house full of people jolted me sharpishly out of feeling sorry for myself. You just can’t be depressed with a ton of friends around, smiling and pouring you a glass of wine and saying how they love your house and how adorable your kids are and isn’t your man handsome and funny and how gorgeous the weather is and aren’t you lucky. I started to feel quite selfish and even a little stupid about feeling so down.

And then there was a circus festival down the road where I saw a ton of shows, seething with jealousy at the performers on stage and willing one of them to break their ankle so that I could leap up and cry “Have no fear! I can replace him/her/it! I’m a multi-talented actress/dancer/accordion player/juggler/trapeze artist/bareback horse rider/acrobatic horse!” (the last five are lies but I was ready to try). I also really enjoyed the shows and swore to steal as many ideas as possible and make my own one woman show, with which I am planning to tour the world, be knighted for cheering whole continents up and conquer the universe. All that by next year. So I was already feeling a lot more cheery and was considering maybe writing a post or two, and then my sister (Sister 2) went and created her own blog for her homemade kids’ clothes line, Heavens-to-Betsy. Well, not only did it look a lot better than my blog, which I hadn’t updated visuals-wise since 1977, but by her 4th day she already had 94 readers. My utter maximum in a day is 144. There is nothing better than sibling rivalry to give you a wake-up call in the form of a slap round the face. Which is why I am sitting on our sofa right now, ignoring the glorious sunshine outside (no, I don’t live in the UK) and making my blog at least look a bit better, even if the content is still waffly and largely incoherent.

The other thing that stopped my down-in-the-dumpsiness in its tracks was having to rush Tommy to emergency ward on Sunday afternoon. His right leg just stopped working. He couldn’t walk, stand up or even move it without screaming with pain. I drove him to the hospital where they did x-rays, scans and blood tests and slept overnight with him on a camp bed. L’Homme took over yesterday and I came home to look after Léonie. This morning they operated on Tommy. They extracted the fluid that was in his hip and sent it off to be tested. We’ll know more about what he’s got in a couple of days when we get the results. It’s either a benign “rhume de hanche” (“hip cold” which I had never heard of) or it’s something more serious, maybe treatable with antibiotics, maybe not. I drove Léonie and I to the hospital this morning to be there when he woke up from his anaesthetic. His leg was in a traction thing with a weight on the end to try and straighten it out. He has a small incision on his left hip. He was all grumpy and upset and worried that he would always have a weight attached to his ankle. “It’s there forever Mummy? Oh no Mummy!” I reassured him that he would be up and about in a couple of days but the doctors reckon they’re keeping him in at least another 3 or 4 days. They need to be sure it’s not anything serious and they need the blood tests to show the infection marker going down, rather than up, which is what it has been doing until now.

Just a few days ago I remarked out loud how lovely it is in the summer because the kids are never ill.

All this makes me wonder whether I should put off going back to acting and performing for another year or so. The kids are still so little and still so prone to dodgy illnesses which land them in hospital. With L’Homme on the road 8 months out of every 12 I’m usually the only one here to look after them, although this time we are lucky it has happened while L’Homme is home.

Ironic really. We had put this week aside to “spend time together” – ie. put the kids to bed early and stay up late sipping wine in the sunset. Instead we’ll be seeing each other fleetingly at the hospital as the other one takes over, swapping car keys and nappy bag and Léonie. But at least all this has put life into perspective and hoisted me back into the saddle again (even if I do have a bit of chafing saddle sore).

I’m just crossing my fingers and praying to Zeus (or whatever god will listen to me), that Tommy’s leg problem is nothing serious and that he’ll be back on his bike soon.

Pirate Cake Ahoy

A few weeks ago, when we were planning Tommy’s birthday party, I opened my big mouth and stupidly asked him what sort of birthday cake he would like.

“A pirate ship cake. Mummy, yes, a pirate ship cake! With sails and pirates and treasure and treasure chests and cannons and everything!”


My mind went utterly blank as brain cells and synapses struggled to imagine how on earth to bake and make such a cake, resulting in an electrical spark going awol and burning a fuse in my head. Some smoke came out of my ears. I am not a great cake baker. I am quite good at drawing, so I can draw a pirate ship, but I had no idea how to conceptualise the drawing as a three-dimensional chocolate sponge thing.

So off I went to visit Granny Google and lo, she had ideas a-plenty as to how to make a pirate cake. I printed out what seemed to be the easiest yet still looked pretty impressive as edible pirate ships go, and of course, left it until the morning of the party to actually start making the thing. Which created a problem: how to make the boat-cake without Tommy seeing? It wouldn’t be a surprise. And there lies the beauty of this whole baking project… it doesn’t need to be a surprise. In fact, it’s far better for it NOT to be a surprise, as then your little boy can thoroughly enjoy seeing it made and spend time gazing at it, rather than glimpsing it for 20 seconds while everyone yells Happy Birthday TO YOU, blowing out the candles and watching it being hacked into pieces and eaten before having really taken it in. Another advantage of getting your little boy roped into the creation of the cake is that little boys are top whizz experts in pirate boats and therefore can advise you regarding essential features, where they should be, what colour and how many. Tommy directed me with great authority on the number of masts, sails, oars and cannons, and patiently explained that there needed to be a treasure chest overflowing with gold and jewels, at least 3 pirates, one of whom whould be climbing into the boat having just fought off a shark, plus a shark in the sea by the boat, a desert island nearby, some rope and various cutlasses and knives.

Together we baked two round chocolate sponge cakes and once they had cooled off a bit I cut them in half and sandwiched them together with some chocolate icing to make the hull of the boat. I poked two straws through them to hold them together, wrapped the whole lot in foil and put it in the freezer for half an hour to make it more solid.

When I took it out of the freezer I cut the curved bottom off to make the boat sit properly on my “ocean” (more foil) and Tommy and I smothered the boat in chocolate icing. We then made barriers with pretzels and a flake, coils of rope with liquorice spirals, a mini Mars bar became a treasure chest and little red and yellow jelly sweeties cut into bits became the overflowing pirate booty.

We put the boat back into the fridge and cut out sails from gold and orange chinese paper which we threaded onto three mikado sticks. I found a little Union Jack ‘flag’ from a Jubilee skirt my sister had sent Léonie and we prepared three Playmobil soldiers for their birthday mission. The kids arrived (all 12 of them. I know, I know… we clearly didn’t learn our lesson from last year’s party) and we soon threw them all into the pool, which is tiny and meant the kids were so squished in that no-one had enough space to drown. Good safety technique. After the ice-cream boutique episode (me cramped into the little kiddy playhouse in the garden somehow serving ice-creams through the window), Tommy and I slipped away to finish the cake. We hoisted the sails and the flag, lit the cannons (candles), taught the pirates a last sea shanty before they left for sea… and we set sail. HA HAAAAAARRRRGGGHHH ME HEARTIES!

The kids were gobsmacked. I loved their faces. We sang happy birthday and joyeux anniversaire over and over again, relighting the cannons each time. And then came the moment to cut the cake. “Non!” shouted one of the boys. And another one asked “can we eat it without cutting it?” Which of course posed a slight problem. So I suggested we cut into the ship as if it was being attacked by a giant sea monster (me), then we could all eat some of it, and the rest we could leave as a shipwreck. “Yay! Oui!” So I donned an evil sea creature persona and hacked into the gateau-bateau with a huge knife fang, serving portions of boat to 13 wide-eyed mini-pirates. At the end there was just a chunk of boat left, keel reeling, sails toppling. One kid even ate the rocky island and tried eating the candle in the shape of a 5. And they adored munching on the salty pretzel-barriers along with the sweet chocolate cake.

So to any parents wondering what kind of cake creation they dare to tackle for a looming birthday party, I thoroughly recommend this one. It was easy peasy and so much fun to decorate. If I can do it, anyone can.

Close-up of treasure chest with gold and jewels. Ho ho ho and a bottle of gummy bears.

Blinkin’ Goblin.

There are many amazing advantages with having a bilingual family, mostly for the kids of course, although I do believe it makes life linguistically richer for all of us. And sometimes it also makes life more confusing as L’Homme’s grasp of English is pretty darn basic and I sometimes use the wrong word for preservative which means I end up talking about condoms in food. And sometimes it makes life a tad prickly and guilt-laden, like when Tommy gets really angry with his socks not going on properly and says “For fucking sake!”

Ah. I see.

Seeing as I am pretty much his sole English-speaking influence here in France, the only one to blame is myself. This time I can’t blame his vocabulary on L’Homme. I am ashamed, as I pride myself on Tommy having such a sophisticated, ‘proper’ English vocabulary (for a French/English 4 yr old), whilst his French is riddled with slang thanks to Daddy. And I hate myself for having lost my temper in front of him to the point of swearing. And not once, not twice, but a few times, judging by the fact that he has correctly assimilated the word and its context (although, not quite, as the grammar is a bit wonky).

It has been a while since he last said it but this morning he was angry that Léonie wouldn’t give him the little bouncy ball she had found in his room and so he was stomping about swearing.

“Listen Tommy”, I said, “That is an ugly thing to say. It doesn’t sound nice when I say it and it sounds even worse when you say it because you are still a child. So let’s find something else to say when we’re very angry. Both of us.”

“But what, Mummy?” Tommy asked.

“I don’t know … it needs to sound a bit naughty but not actually be naughty. Like, erm, like … like blumming … erm, blimming…”

“Blinkin’ Goblin, Mummy?”

I raised my eyebrows at him.

“Emily say that, Mummy. She call me a blinkin’ goblin when I push her on the sofa.”

Emily is my niece. She is 3. And I remember Sister 1 telling me that Emily’s swear words were indeed Blinkin’ Goblin.

“Erm, well, let’s try it out.” I tried it out. “OH, BLINKIN’ GOBLIN!”

It works. There are enough B’s to bounce off and there is the essential ‘ing’ to make it feel like you’re really swearing. Try it. You’ll like it. We have adopted it as our family swear code and I have already used it twice today. It is great as it also makes me laugh which immediately jolts me out of feeling annoyed. I imagine Emily frowning and making her eyes into slits as she glares at the offending object/person, mumbling “Blinkin’ Goblin” under her breath. I also imagine a goblin, blinking.

Clarinet bearfoot

I would just like to warn you all, that Tommy is learning the clarinet.

That is, he picks my clarinet up and blows so hard I worry his eyes might burst a blood vessel or at the very least his ears might pop. But he gets a damn fine sound from it. Seeing as I myself am learning the clarinet, I fear that if he keeps this up he will soon overtake me.

He also looks far cooler than me when in clarinet mode.


Maybe this will be the thing that actually gets me practising regularly. Competition with my son. Or more like a strong, parpy, screechy reminder from my son that my clarinet exists and should be played. In my experience, I usually need something more stressful to get me moving, like a major deadline. Giving a concert at The Royal Albert Hall with me as solo clarinet for example. Yes, that might do it. All I need now is someone to book me for next year. I reckon eight hours of daily clarinet practise for 12 months should be enough. So I’m taking bookings for May/June 2013. I’m crap at the moment – can barely play the high notes without insects dropping dead and the neighbours selling their houses, but I’m sure with some good hard practise I’ll be ready in time for the show. Otherwise I’ll send Tommy.

music bearfoot

PS: I sincerely believe we should all wear bear slippers. They make us look far less serious and far more cuddly.

PPS: Not that Tommy needs to look more cuddly. He is cuddlesomeness in itself, as I am sure you will all agree or else be bopped on the head by me his mummy.